Google Analytics - What is it good for?
Last week I visited a website and saw something that I hadn’t seen for what seems like over a decade - a counter telling me I was the 3619th visitor to the site.
This got me thinking why we used to see this all the time and why did it go away. The answer has to be Google Analytics which came along and offered a much richer set of statistical data.
That reminded me of all the magazine articles that Phil has been writing over the previous months about Google Analytics 4 (GA) and the alternatives. At this point I have to admit that I have not read a single one of those - sorry Phil - I just have no interest in it at all.
I could try and convince you that I have no interest in GA as it is a performance hog.
I could try and convince you that I have no interest in GA because of privacy concerns.
But that wouldn’t be true. The honest answer is that although I have GA installed on about 10 sites I haven’t looked at the data for so long that I don’t even remember when that was. Certainly many years!!
When GA first came along and I installed it on a site for the first time I will admit to logging in and checking what it was telling me on a fairly regular basis. So why did I stop? To put it simply I realised that after the initial “oh cool - look at how many visitors from Croatia” or even “seeing that the number of android users was double the number of iphone users” I really didn’t care.
Just like the old visitor counter, GA had become something that existed purely to inflate my ego. As I now accept that my ego is “big enough” I just didn’t need any further boost from GA. It wasn’t as if I actually did anything with the information. (If you do and you do A/B testing etc then great for you - it’s just not something that I do.)
I am reminded of a classic song whose chorus is
What is it good for?
Say it again What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me!
Good God y'all What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again!
So you may have realised that any of my sites that still have GA will soon have it removed. No point in having it if I am not using it. But what if I will need to know at some point in the future where the site visitors are coming from, what device they are using or the ultimate ego booster - what article is the most popular?
The answer is simple and I don’t need to install anything at all. My hosting provider, ScalaHosting, like almost all hosting providers give me access to all the same data directly from the web server logs. The package the host uses to display and interrogate the statistics might not be as pretty or as advanced as the one that ScalaHosting provides but the data is still the same.